Jens Lekman DJs A Middle Eastern Dance Party

The Swedish musician, inspired by a fan and a gifted box of vinyl, mixes up a worldly soundtrack for your next dinner party… or the next time you're waiting to jump out of a cake.

(Photo Credit: Ellika Henrikson)

Swedish musician Jens Lekman has become a legend in the indie world for his wry, alternately hilarious and heartbreaking pop tunes. Last year, he challenged himself to write a song a week… some of which evolved into tracks for his new album, “Life Will See You Now.” It’s his first record in five years.

Here’s Jens with a playlist mailed from the other side of the world.

Ahmed Fakroun – “Yumma”

Jens Lekman: About four years ago, I got an email from a fan in Lebanon and I said, “Send me a list of good bands from Lebanon.”

And she took this extremely seriously and sent me a whole box of vinyl Lebanese and Middle Eastern music. And ever since then I’ve been really fascinated with music from Lebanon and from the Middle East.

So, the first track is a track from Ahmed Fakroun from Benghazi, Libya. And this is a song called “Yumma.”

The repeated word of “Yumma,” it just sounds so soothing in a way, it sounds like a lullaby or something. At the same time, it’s got this driving beat, it’s like a dance-able lullaby.

He was inspired by a lot of Euro pop and French art rock. I’ve always been fascinated by how pop music sounds in different parts of the world. It’s become almost like a universal language. Pop music emphasizes what we have in common rather than what sets us apart.

“Oh Mother, The Handsome Man Tortures Me”

For the second song, I put on a track called, “Oh Mother, The Handsome Man Tortures Me.” And this is from a compilation of Iraqi music called “Choubi Choubi!” I think it’s the type of music that was played at weddings during the Saddam regime.

I think this title of this song is my favorite title of a song ever. You can just picture someone just being torn to pieces by this handsome man. It just sounds so raw, and desperate, and full of lust.

There’s a percussion instrument in there called khishba [Ed note: it’s also known as the zanboor drum] which sounds like a futuristic kick drum. It just hits you really hard.

Dur-Dur Band – “Dooyo”

OK, so now I think the dinner party has evolved into a full dance party. I’m playing a song called “Dooyo,” […] by Dur-Dur band from Somalia.

The Dur-Dur band disbanded in the early 1990’s. The people that founded the band moved to Ohio. I discovered the Dur-Dur band through the amazing record label Awesome Tapes From Africa. After they got some recognition from that, they reformed.

It’s disco and it’s funk and it’s soul. What I love about it is that… there’s no ego, really, involved in disco music, even though there were quite a few divas. It’s not about the singer as it is about just to make people dance.

Jens Lekman – “Wedding In Finistère”

So, someone says, “Why don’t you put on one of your tracks, Jens?” All right then. I’ll put on this one track. It’s called, “Wedding in Finistère.” And I wrote this because, on the side, I support myself as a wedding singer. It’s something that I’ve grown to just love.

I’ve been playing in a tiny bar on top of a mountain, jumping out of a cake with 100 drunk relatives screaming at me. I’ve become unstoppable as a performer from playing weddings [laughs].

Yes, I jumped out of a cake once. One thing, though, if you’re gonna have someone jump out of a cake, most important thing to remember is to have some sort of oxygen supply in the cake. When I finally came out, I was almost blue in the face [laughs].